Here’s Why ‘The Simpsons’ Episode Where They Go to Japan Is Banned in Japan
The Simpsons is one of the most beloved animated properties worldwide, with 36 dubs and translations of the longest-running American animated series airing internationally. As a top American cultural exports, the humor of The Simpsons has been transcending language barriers ever since its beloved Latin American Spanish dub launched in Mexico back in 1990, just a year after the show premiered in American America. Within a couple short years, The Simpsons was an international, multilingual hit on six continents, and, with so many countries tuning in to see America’s first animated family every week, you’d think that nothing would make The Simpsons more popular in each respective nation than an episode wherein the Simpsons visit said country. In Japan, you’d be very, very wrong.
In the Season 10 episode “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo,” the Simpson family takes a last-minute discounted vacation to the Land of the Rising Sun that quickly goes awry due to the antics of Homer and Bart at a sumo wrestling match, during which Homer tosses Japanese then-Emperor Akihito into a trunk full of used loincloths. That act of incidental aggression landed the father and son in jail and “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo” on Japanese television’s permanent ban list.
“Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo” never aired in Japan, nor was it ever dubbed for DVD releases or other forms of redistribution. Despite featuring the beloved Japanese-American entertainer George Takei as a guest star and containing probably the greatest and most subtle joke about Japanese culture ever written for an American television series — when Marge attempts to persuade Homer that he’ll enjoy their impromptu vacation because he enjoyed the film Rashomon, he replies, “That’s not how I remember it” — the episode is still considered unforgivably offensive for its dishonorable portrayal of the former Emperor, who abdicated the Chrysanthemum Throne in 2019.
Somehow, only one other Simpsons episode has managed to earn a ban from Japan, despite the many jokes made at the expense of the Japanese throughout the series — just one season after Tokyo blocked “Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo,” the episode “Little Big Mom” also earned its place on the ban list. Though there’s no mention of Japan anywhere in the installment, in the episode, there is a plot point in which Lisa pretends to have contracted leprosy to prank Bart and Homer and punish them for their slovenly ways while Marge is (allegedly) on the mend following a broken leg she suffered during their ski trip when she was struck by a falling clock.